Since I was a little girl, I have been enamored with the colorful mélange of patterns on hot air balloons taking flight. Photographs of hot air balloons from New Mexico, Turkey and Myanmar flying over vast terrains captivated my imagination. Now that we are calling Maine for this short spell, we decided to take a quick journey up into the sky with Androscoggin Balloon Adventures.
I’m passing the remaining waning days of summer in Maine, a state where I attended college, but have never had the chance to enjoy a proper summer in. July and August were often spent interning in Vietnam, Canada or New York, so this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt the idyllic August days of Maine. We’re on a lake, in between Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, and the weather here is so reasonably temperate. There’s enough sun to jump in headfirst into the freshwater current, but just enough of an optimal drift of wind causing the canopies of the trees to sway ever so slightly. In the mornings, I brush my teeth out on to the balcony, which overlooks the breathtaking “stairway to heaven” that is our lifeline to the lakefront.
Safaris are not holidays for those looking for a slow-paced sojourn. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 AM every day for our early morning game drives. There was no time for jet lag! In the span of 6 days, we’ve been to two national parks (Pilanesberg, Kruger) and one private game reserve nestled in a sprawling mountain range with lush green foliage (Bongani).
It took me 27 hours to arrive in Cartagena. Originally, I was supposed to arrive at a leisurely pace, mid-Friday on a direct flight from JFK. Angela and I had reserved a street food tour months in advance and I had Google translated dinner reservations to Spanish so that we would arrive with a plan in motion. What transpired was a series of events that led me to toss my head back and laugh because there’s only so much that you can control for, even with the most impeccably detailed planning.
I’ve never been the type of traveler who enjoys going to a resort and laying out under a linen cabana for a week’s time. Since I’ve been the trip planner for my friends and family for as long as I can remember, this is rarely what our travel itineraries look like and I’m happy when everyone leaves with incredible stories from the very private, unique, and off the beaten path experiences that I’m fond of.
Being Vietnamese, France has always played a role in my life. During my grandparents’ generation, you received your education through a French lycée. My Mother attended Marie Curie High School, a school established in 1918 by the French colonial government. My Aunts can still sing French songs when the family gathers around for karaoke. My family celebrated this past Christmas in New York with a delicious Bûche de Noël. We eat baguettes that have evolved to the mouth-watering flavorbomb of julienned carrots, stemmy cilantro, homemade pâte and cold cuts known as banh mi.